The New Great Game Has Arrived in Bangladesh

  0 comments   |     by Dr M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury

Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Assam’s Bodoland and Bangladesh’s Chittagong

What to make of the recent ethno-sectarian violence in Myanmar’s Rakhaine state, Assam’s Bodoland and Bangladesh’s Chittagong? In asking this innocuous question to a number of friends and acquaintances, more often than not I have met with a counter question: What can they possibly be other than heinous drives by the Buddhist chauvinists of Myanmar and the Hindu supremacists of Assam to uproot Muslims from their respective areas. The more partisan they were towards their own co-religionists, greater was this inclination. When I pointed out that in Chittagong the Buddhists appear to have been on the receiving end, mostly I have a blank stare either because they have not considered it at all or they did not expect a Muslim to raise it. A few blamed the sitting pro-Indian government for staging it. However, almost to a man they were entirely oblivious of any possible trans-national links among the violence. If some of them had such knowledge or inkling, they kept it to themselves.  To be frank with you, I have not been surprised. After all, such ethnic and/or sectarian violence are not uncommon throughout South and South-East Asia. From India to Indonesia one can have numerous examples of certain section of the majority community using violence to keep members of a minority community tame. These are, relatively speaking, momentary turbulences like the furious sizzling of a splash of water in a hot pan. Once peace is restored, life goes back to its old form as if nothing untoward has happened. What international purpose such short, sharp mayhems could serve?  

Yes, ethnic and/or sectarian violence in South and South-East Asia are local frictions in almost all the cases; not in every case though!  It is precisely because of the latter possibility here, there is a danger of misreading and mishandling these three exceptional and entwined set of trans-national violence in a proximate geographical arena.  Some of you might have already started musing with a wry smile: Why on earth this old wiseacre has come to think these are not run of the mill local sectarian violence? Yes, I will tell you why. But before I do that let’s be clear about one thing. I am not saying that any of the three polities – Myanmar, India and Bangladesh -- did not have ethnic and/or sectarian fault-lines. Not only they have, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar in particular have a long and awful history of victimisation not just by their Rakhaine neighbours but also by the state itself, which stripped them of their citizenship and made them stateless in their own homeland. Besides, they have been subjected to ‘push back’ before. The point I am making is not about the legitimacy of any community’s grievance against their neighbouring community and/or state. I am simply pointing out that when suited to their need extra-national powers may also take advantage of such festering wounds and I believe this is the case in all three violence in question. Look at the signs and you will start recognising this.  

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